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Plein Air Under The Picnic Shelter

Oil painting of Western Lake and the Umbrella Trees, at Grayton Beach State Park
Oil painting of Western Lake and the Umbrella Trees, at Grayton Beach State Park Oil painting of Western Lake looking towards 30A, at Grayton Beach State Park


It’s a rainy day in Florida today.  For being the Sunshine State, we certainly have had our share of rain this year, at least in Northwest Florida, where I live.  Our plein air painters group was scheduled to paint at Grayton Beach State Park today.  With 100% chance of rain, and with it already 100-percenting since the wee hours of the morning, accompanied by flash-flood warnings, it is not surprising that only two of us showed up.  I was first to arrive, choosing a pavilion where I could see the distinctive stand of trees across the lake, that everyone here knows as the Umbrella Trees.  The rain had slowed to barely a sprinkle and some little woods rats were squirreling around in the wildflowers beside the pavilion.  I would see something move out of the corner of my eye, and then if I kept looking, I would see the second one follow the first.  They were completely camouflaged when they were still.

Soon after fellow plein air artist Ed Nickerson joined me, the bottom fell out of the sky again.  Colors in the distance muted to grays, and the foreground colors intensified by contrast.  We both had time to paint two small paintings before the mist of heavy raindrops bouncing off the tin roof and blowing onto us chilled me to the bone. I headed over to Grayt Grounds for a cup of good coffee before running an errand and returning to my studio.

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The Illusion of Depth

This week Studio b. instructor Heather Clements gave us the exercise of creating illusion of depth.  She asked us to exaggerate it,  to make the foreground appear much closer than the parts of the model that were further away.  Perspective of course is the most obvious method of creating the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional plane.  The parts of the subject that are closer are much larger in proportion to the parts that are farther away.  In figure drawing, perspective already is exaggerated, because the model is in close proximity to the artist.
The highest contrast of values, and if working in color, the brightest colors, also tend to advance toward the viewer, while midtones and duller colors tend to recede.  Purposefully muting the lights and darks will cause that part of the subject to appear farther away, and purposefully heightening the black-white value contrast and brightening the colors of the near portions will advance the closer part of the subject.
The degree of development also creates the illusion of depth.  Highly developed areas advance, whereas silhouetted shapes with perhaps hazy edges, recede.

This is the second week Heather mentioned Mach bands, an optical illusion causing forward edges to appear lighter against darker values behind.  This optical illusion occurs even though the local value does not change — our eyes do it for us.  If the artist will exaggerate Mach bands, that too will help give the illusion of depth.

The examples in this post exaggerate depth.